Solemnity of the Ascension: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?”
Lectionary Readings: (taken from the meditations of Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP)
- Acts 1: 1-11. Between Easter and Ascension Jesus instructed the apostles and advised them to “wait… [for] you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.” Eventually Jesus will return gloriously, the same way by which he ascended from their midst.
- Ephesians 1: 17-23. Christ’s “fullness fills the universe” and so the Lord distributes “the wealth of his glorious heritage” and
“the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe.”
- Matthew 28: 16-20. Stresses the Lord’s universal authority and the commission of the apostles to “make disciples of all nations.” It was spoken by Jesus in Galilee.
Thoughts for Your Consideration: By John Gonzalez
As I consider the lectionary readings for this weekend I cannot help but place the interaction between Jesus and his disciples within the context of the rapture which was suppose to take place a couple of weeks ago and which is now being slated for October. The disciples, like so many of us, were also looking for quick and definitive answers. As Jesus prepared to ascend into heaven they eagerly asked him if now was the moment for final culmination of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Jesus offers the sobering response “It is not for you to know the times or seasons.” Instead of passively dwelling with the “end of the world” phenomenon Jesus offers his disciples a call to action to be agents of God’s great love for the entire world. Comically, as Jesus ascends, the disciples simply stand there naively waiting for God to yet intervene so that even angels are commissioned to shoo them away and get them moving on to their appointed task.
The fact is that it is easier for us to sit back and let God do all the work than for us to take responsibility and be an active part of God’s plan for the redemption of the world. The disciples in the first reading and St. Paul in the second reading confront the divine kingship that belongs to Christ but they are reminded that this divine citizenship does not allow them to sit back and judge the world under the false pretense that they are the chosen ones. Instead they are instructed to be actively involved in transforming the world in the vision of justice and peace.
The Gospel passage is very instructive with regards to the challenge of our faith. As with the first reading Jesus again is commissioning the apostles to “make disciples of all nations” and even though he is ascending Jesus assures them of the Holy Spirit and reminds them that he will be with them always. What impresses me is just how human the apostles are in this one passage “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” The promise of eternal life and the belief that God’s vision of justice and peace will prevail are articles of faith. Jesus promises to be with us always, this too is an article of faith. We are asked to believe in the promises of our revealed religion even though there is no tangible proof that these promises will come to pass. There are moments where we struggle to believe in the midst of our doubts and disillusions. If the apostles who witnessed the resurrection and the ascension doubted in the presence of Christ how much more difficult is it for us who struggle to believe 2000 years after the fact?
Many times we strive to do what is right on a personal level or to promote what is just and fair on a social level and many times we wonder “what’s the point?” This past week I have been undergoing my own spiritual dryness and I went out to the ocean where I was able to witness God in the power of His own creation. I was able to witness God but I could not feel His presence. And then, as I began to contemplate the universe beyond the sea, the words of the psalmist came to me:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:3-4)
At that moment I was reminded that in many ways I am nothing more than a cosmic germ. Just like a bacteria evolves within my body so too am I like a bacteria in the cosmos, physically insignificant yet empowered to shape the evolution of creation in ways I cannot imagine. We are part of something grand, on the surface it may not seem so, but in the depths of our soul we know that there is purpose and meaning in what we do and in all that happens. So it is that the psalmist could continue with the following verse:
“Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5)